The Equity Advisory and Action Committee advises the Governance Board on equity initiatives, provides guidance to staff on strategic development, and serves as a resource for member organizations to advance equity goals. Members of the committee help select content for our annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference and partner with our state leaders to find messengers with compelling stories to share with members of Congress.
Members of the Equity Advisory and Action Committee:
Huda Alkaff is an ecologist, environmental educator, environmental justice activist, and the founder and director of Wisconsin Green Muslims, a grassroots environmental justice group formed in 2005 connecting faith, environmental justice, sustainability, and healing through education and service. Huda’s higher education degrees are in Conservation Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Science/Environmental Education from the University of Georgia. For over two decades, she advocated for environmental justice, initiating Muslim and Interfaith programs on energy and water conservation. Huda received recognition from the 2015 White House Champions of Change for Faith Climate Justice Leaders by President Obama.
Huda is a Program Manager at Milwaukee Environmental Consortium, a Wisconsin Field Organizer for Climate Action Campaign, and the Coordinator of Wisconsin Faith Communities for Equitable Solar and Wisconsin Faithful Rainwater Harvesting (FaRaH) that connect with over 6,000 people from 18 different faith traditions, spiritualities and various backgrounds.
Before joining Milwaukee Water Commons, Coley was the sole proprietor of Brenda Coley & Associates, helping local and national organizations build the cultural competence to approach marginalized populations around health, leadership development and social justice issues. In addition, she has served on many community engagement boards and public health initiatives, specifically focused on equality and health disparities within the LGBTQ and other minority communities in Milwaukee.
Coley brings to MWC her philosophy on being a servant leader. She is committed to exploring the influences of one’s own culture or cultures and understanding ways in which groups of people have been and are treated in society, using that knowledge to develop strategies to effectively engage diverse groups of people in important community issues.
Sheyda grew up in the land of 10,000 lakes near the source of the Mississippi River – Saint Paul, MN. Freshwater has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember and being close to it always makes her feel at home.
Based in Chicago, IL, Sheyda has built her career around social justice and the advancement of equitable policies and practices. Previously with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Sheyda focused on policy and advocacy efforts to protect the lakes from Asian carp, reduce runoff pollution to western Lake Erie and define and build the organization’s shift toward protecting access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water in the region for all people. Prior to her work on water, Sheyda worked as a policy research and evaluation professional, advancing and advocating for effective social policies and programs. Her projects have included efforts to improve early childhood education outcomes in Kisumu, Kenya, advancing community health benefits for immigrant populations in Minneapolis, MN, and improving federal pesticide monitoring practices in the US food supply. Sheyda brings both broad policy expertise and strong alliance-building experience to her work at River Network, having previously developed successful, diverse partnerships across local communities, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations ranging in scope from the local to international levels throughout her career.
Sheyda received her B.A. from the University of Minnesota in Global Studies and Human Rights and has an M.A. in Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Sheyda is passionate about human rights and social justice, and views the Great Lakes and surrounding tributaries as a vital resource that should be accessible to all communities in the region. Sheyda’s work at River Network is driven by the belief that the health of our region’s fresh water is vital to the well-being of its surrounding communities.
Conservation Organizer, Sierra Club-Michigan Chapter
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Communication from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
She is one of the leaders at the forefront of the water rights struggle in Detroit and beyond and is also the visionary, co-designer and co-author of the We The People of Detroit-Community Research Collective that published and released “Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African-American Neighborhoods in Detroit” (August 2016) as volume one of a three-part series documenting the effects of austerity and its relationship to race in Detroit.
She is also an active member of the People’s Water Board Coalition, US Human Rights Network, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Flint Strong Stones (Co-founder), Freshwater Futures/All About Water (Advisory Committee), Detroit Equity Action Lab (Fellow 2016) and was named to the World Water Justice Council in October 2015.
Lewis-Patrick, attended the historic Bennett College, is a graduate of East Tennessee State University where she earned a BS degree in Social Work and Sociology; a Masters degree in Criminal Justice/Sociology and Public Management; and was a Ron McNair Scholar.
Francisco Ollervides is better known as “Paco,” a common nickname in Mexico where he was born and raised. For over 19 years, has enjoyed helping nonprofit organizations and individuals think and act strategically by improving their efficiency and efficacy.
Paco is the first Executive Director to Green Leadership Trust. He leverages the knowledge, networks and resources of People of Color and Indigenous people serving Boards of environmental organizations to build and diversify the environmental movement’s power.
He worked for River Network as Leadership Development Manager in the Great Lakes providing capacity building and organizational development support in the areas of strategic planning, fundraising, and board development and succession planning. Paco served as Senior Field Coordinator with the Waterkeeper Alliance advising numerous nonprofit advocacy groups throughout Latin America. He has also served as Director of the Center for Coastal Studies in Mexico. Paco is a biochemical engineer and a bioacoustician by training. He has conducted field work assessing the impacts of boat noise on gray whale behavior. Paco holds both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Department at Texas A&M University. Paco is based near Columbus, Ohio.
Justin Onwenu is a 4th generation Detroiter working as an environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club in Detroit. He received his undergraduate degree in International Health and Policy from Rice University. During his time as a student, he organized a number of campaigns on a campus, city, and national level.
His interest in medicine and wellness led him to work to understand diseases and healthcare systems from a number of different perspectives as both a bioscience researcher focused on lung cancer metastasis and as a health policy analyst focused on patient health outcomes.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and during his time as Rice University Student Body President, he developed a deeper appreciation for the relationship between health and environment as he organized over 1700 students, faculty and staff to help rebuild in some of Houston’s hardest hit areas. After graduating, he continued working on these issues on behalf of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, where he helped lead outreach efforts to bring light to the long term environmental exposures, housing, mental health, and physical health impacts of the storm.
Since moving back to Michigan to continue his work as an organizer, he has been focused on addressing the public health impact of industries on local communities, protecting the Detroit River, and empowering local residents to bring about the change they want to see. He has been published by the Detroit News, Guardian, Houston Chronicle and the New York Times on a number of topics.